Louisiana will require the Ten Commandments to be prominently displayed in every public school classroom under a new law that takes effect in early 2025.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Jeff Landry on Wednesday, celebrates the biblical commandments as foundational documents in United States history.

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses,” Landry said about the new policy, according to The Associated Press.

He and other supporters of the policy argue that the state can require public schools to display the Ten Commandments since the text is historically significant in addition to being religiously significant.

But several organizations, including faith-based ones, take issue with this view and say that Louisiana’s new law clearly violates the Constitution’s establishment clause.

“The First Amendment promises that we all get to decide for ourselves what religious beliefs, if any, to hold and practice, without pressure from the government. Politicians have no business imposing their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools,” reads a joint statement from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which plan to file a lawsuit to block the new law.

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Supreme Court rulings on Ten Commandments displays

The joint statement referenced a Supreme Court decision from the 1980s barring Ten Commandments displays in classrooms.

In Stone v. Graham, the court ruled 5-4 that Kentucky lawmakers had violated the establishment clause by requiring copies of the Ten Commandments to be hung in public schools.

“The Court noted that the Commandments did not confine themselves to arguably secular matters (such as murder, stealing, etc.), but rather concerned matters such as the worship of God and the observance of the Sabbath Day,” according to Oyez. For this reason and others, the justices in the majority determined that Ten Commandments displays in classrooms were “plainly religious in nature.”

More recently, in 2005, the Supreme Court issued a confusing pair of rulings on other types of Ten Commandments displays.

  • In Van Orden v. Perry, it said that the Ten Commandments could be on display on the grounds of the Texas state capitol in recognition of religion’s role in American history.
  • But in McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, it blocked the state from displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses and public schools, determining that government officials’ goal had been to advance a religious message, which violates the establishment clause.

Taken as a whole, these rulings and others make it clear that the Supreme Court does not require public entities to entirely steer clear of religious messages and symbols.

The justices have acknowledged that faith-related displays can serve a secular purpose, but they’ve also criticized lawmakers who have used a possible secular purpose to obscure their faith-based motivations.

The court has also repeatedly expressed concern about the Ten Commandments’ religious message, saying that, when the text is displayed prominently on its own, it sends a message about God rather than about American history.

“This is not to deny that the Commandments have had influence on civil or secular law,” the majority opinion said in McCreary County. “The point is simply that the original text viewed in its entirety is an unmistakably religious statement dealing with religious obligations and with morality subject to religious sanction. When the government initiates an effort to place this statement alone in public view, a religious object is unmistakable.”

Will Louisiana’s Ten Commandments law be overturned?

In light of Stone v. Graham and other, related rulings, some religious freedom experts expect Louisiana’s Ten Commandments law to eventually be overturned.

“I think they are overreaching,” said Charles C. Haynes of the Freedom Forum to The New York Times about the lawmakers behind the policy.

He said it’s unlikely for the current Supreme Court to uphold the law, even though they’ve issued a variety of rulings in favor of religious conservatives in recent years.

“Even this court will have a hard time justifying” what lawmakers are requiring, Haynes told the Times.

Policymakers in other states have come to similar conclusions in recent months as they’ve weighed related measures.

Bills that would have required the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina and Utah either failed or were significantly adjusted before passage, according to The New York Times.

The version of the Utah bill that passed added the Ten Commandments to a list of documents that teachers can use in history classes, as the Deseret News previously reported.


But other legal experts expect Louisiana’s policy to stand and other states to pass their own versions of the bill.

“The Pelican State has rightly recognized the history and tradition of the Ten Commandments in the state,” said Matt Krause, Of Counsel at First Liberty Institute, in a statement. “We applaud Louisiana for being the first, but by no means the last, state to take this bold step for religious liberty.”

Louisiana’s governor has said he looks forward to defending the new Ten Commandments law in court.

“I can’t wait to be sued,” he said over the weekend, according to The Tennessean.

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